Welcome to Fun City U.S.A.

Welcome to Fun City U.S.A.

We had a nice little chat here yesterday, didn't we, about South by Southwest in Austin and all the attention Austin got and all the attention Dallas didn't? I thought it sparked some really interesting comments about what is and isn't and ought to be in our fair city.

The best stuff was aimed at me, taking me to task for offering a bad syllogism: If Austin's cool, and if we want to be cool, then we have to be Austin. I didn't think I said that, but, eh, you never know: I get that big old gun in my hands, I just don't know what form of lunacy may come rolling off my lips.

A number of commenters suggested that the worst thing we can do here is keep comparing ourselves with other cities. I stand corrected, and I agree totally. The secret ingredient is not giving that much of a damn what other cities do.

The trick, though, is having the confidence to do your own thing. One commenter suggested that the St. Paddy's Day Parade on Greenville could be grown into a kind of indigenous music and film festival of sorts. I also thought of the fledgling Mardi Gras celebration in Bishop Arts. Other people nominated several small events that could be nurtured into bigger things.

But do you have any idea how hard it is to put on anything fun in this city? The first major hurdle you have to get over is the shake-down operation run by the police department: They won't give you an event permit until you agree to hire half the police force off-duty at a hefty hourly rate so they can come arrest all of your guests.

Then you have an even tougher barrier in the old culture of the city, which sees any inkling of fun, especially if it involves drinking, as the first slippery step on the muddy slide to hell. Oh my gosh, should a tipsy adult person try to urinate behind a bush in an alley, well, we need to sic Gaddafi on that bastard.

Meet Wilbur T. Dillmeir, City Hall's head of the Department of Fun Task Force.
Meet Wilbur T. Dillmeir, City Hall's head of the Department of Fun Task Force.

In fact the first impulsive response of Dallas City Hall to any expression of fun or celebration, from community gardens to parades, is the crackdown. It's like, crackdown first, ask questions later.

We all know that Dallas has its own unique personality -- a cool personality. I remember driving back into East Dallas after a visit to Seattle, thinking, "Thank God, a little relief from the Bobos." We just have to figure out how to get it out from under the crackdowners and the no-funs. We need a way -- our own way.

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